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Newbie deciding between an Englehardt or christopher

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by kderick, Apr 29, 2004.

  1. kderick


    Apr 29, 2004
    Orlando, FL
    I need some help. I bought a Carlo Robelli from Sam Ash 26 days ago. The glue already has gone bad thus leaving the bottom of the bass coming apart. I was lucky since I got my money back. So know I want a solid, well playing bass. I know a luthier who is selling a Christopher DB204 for 2K. He will even make a custom bridge for it. The Other bass I am interested in is the Englehardt Es-9 Swingmaster. I love the look of it and heard nothing but great reviews so far. I like the idea of a thinner neck since my previous bass was clunky. I would love to hear some advice on these basses. Also, are there any good teaching videos. I already bought the Todd Phillips video and a Rufus Reid video. the rufus video seems to be a more for the intermediate. I am trying to meet teachers at festivals where pickers are in the parking lot. Any other help would be great. Thanks.
  2. kderik

    I have an Englehardt EM1. It is properly set up, has good strings, adjustable bridge etc. I play mostly bluegrass and folk, with a little ARCO thrown in (very little). One reason I bought it was because I thought I wanted a thinner neck. However I have large hands (I'm 6"5" tall) and they tend to cramp up when playing a lot of closed chord songs in the key of B, etc. Just a thought about the thinner neck.

    I am going to look for a Christopher as my next bass. They are well put together and have good tone (at least the ones I have played) The thicker neck shouldn't be a problem for you unless you have really small hands.

    Whatever you buy, get it professionally set up. You'll never regret it.

    Good luck and welcome to the community.

  3. I have a Swingmaster and am very pleased with it. A good setup did make a significant difference in its playability. I recently replace the coathanger tailpiece wire with aircraft cable and that really livened up the tone of the bass.

    That said, I should also point out that I will probably upgrade to a better quality instrument sometime within the next couple of years. There are many knowledgeable and experienced players here who believe Christophers and Shens to be among the best of the lower priced (clearly lower priced is a relative concept) brands. No matter what, try to play before you buy. An Engelhardt may give you the exact sound you seek and save several dollars.

    After reading your comments about looking for a teacher, it sounds like you are into bluegrass and parking lot picking. I would suggest this might not be the best place to find someone to start you on the straight and narrow. The overwhelming majority of bluegrass bassists I have seen, heard, and played with can get the job done but their technique is to just squeeze the neck and let 'er rip. Consequently, they have trouble with more complex tunes and lack endurance--believe me, I know this from experience. You may learn some very basic things from them but to really develop as a musician you need someone who really knows what they are doing.

    I had the same problem as Helibass--playing in b, lots of closed notes, etc. left me with cramps, pain, and frustration. I wanted to blame it on the thin neck but a few of the old salts here on TB pointed to technique. I tried doing what they said but still had problems. After finding a teacher (through TB) things changed. He changed my whole approach to the instrument and what a difference that made! Cramps and pain are pretty much a thing of the past. I got (and still get) good advice here but there is no substitute to actually having someone there to physically show you what to do.

    Fill out your profile. There is a strong possiblity if folks around here know where you are, they might help you make some good connections.
  4. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    The other thing - I know it seems counter intuitive, but having a thicker neck can be easier on the hands. I know (cause that's how I started too) that coming over from plank, you try to get a neck that's as close to what you're used to as possible. But a thicker neck (or thicker fingerboard) really helps keep your hand shape in good position.
  5. JJBluegrasser

    JJBluegrasser Wannabe Snazzy Dresser

    Apr 17, 2003
    USA, Raleigh, NC
    Where are you located? I'm in North Carolina, and play bluegrass in a working band. At first I was offended at Steve's comments, but then I thought about it, and he is right (and of course, meant no harm). I am probably the most "technical" of all of the bluegrass players I know. For a while I looked for someone I could learn stuff from, but then I realized that what they were playing isn't really that complex. Slapping is really the main thing in blugrass that makes people "think" you're good, and that just takes practise.

    I am now beginning to get back into Jazz and classical playing (I played the Trumpet for 13 years) and I am a firm believer that if you can play "the bass," the rest of bluegrass is listening and getting the feel down. The feel is hard. I don't happen to think that bluegrass is as easy as everyone here (no offense guys) thinks it is. The timing is very exact, and being able to do anything interesting on the bass without disrupting that can be a challenge. Also, as a bass soloist in bluegrass, if you can play the melody on the doghouse, people will think you're a freaking genious. Bluegrass bass isn't poorly played, but there are alot of poor bluegrass bass players ("hey you can't play anything else, here's a bass!"). There are some really good ones out there too, but they are hard to find. I'd say learn the instrument and play bluegrass with it.

    I'd get a jazz or classical teacher and listen to as much bluegrass as you have time left for, and you'll get it.

    "The Ungentle Art" by Mark Rubin and ??? is a pretty good slap technique video. That's what I've learned by, and that's what Mike Bub from Del McCoury learned from.

    As far as what kind of bass to get, if you're gonna be taking it out to the festivals, I'd recommend getting the Swingmaster or a Christpher Plywood. I wouldn't go carved for that environment.

    Sorry for the highjack,
  6. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    another bass you might want to think about is a Strunal 5/20. I own one , and I really like the tone of it. It's a hybrid bass....carved top/plywood back and sides.
  7. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    I play bluegrass mostly. I don't slap. I play an englehardt and really miss my American Standard. Although the thinner neck doesn't bother me, I found the thicker neck was much more comfortable on my left hand. Good luck in your search.

    Actually we play a variety of music. I should say we have bluegrass instrumentation and play bluegrass festivals.
  8. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    Pacman plays a chrissy and has used an engelhardt as well, you may want to PM him
  9. I went from an Engelhardt to a hybid Christopher and it was definitely a step up (though its not fair to compare as the Engel was in terrible shape and deperately needed a professional set up).

    After the Engel, the Christopher neck did indeed feel thick, but I got used to it real quick (plus it didn't have that sticky lacquer to drag my thumb around on).
  10. McBass


    Mar 31, 2004
    Brooklyn, NY
    You might want to consider forgetting about brand names for a while. I hear a lot of talk about the popular "brands" of new basses in threads by players just starting out. The relationship between brand and sound that applies to electric basses (fender jazz bass sound versus warwick thumb bass sound) does not apply to the double bass field. The only information a brand name can give you about a double bass is a general feel for quality control by the maker or factory. So much of double bass sound is in the set up. I wouldn't even consider a bass that I hadn't played for hours, if not days. If there is a luthier who is proposing to set up an instrument for you after the sale, convince him to set the instrument up properly before the sale so you can actually hear what the bass you're buying will sound like. If he's not willing to do so until after money has been exchanged, how can you be expected to invest in an instrument you've never heard? I'd even suggest that it's worth the price of plane fare or a full day's drive to seek out a selection of instruments that are ready to play so you can hear what you're buying. Never invest thousands of dollars in an instrument unless you've actually played it with a professional set up and had it checked out by a quality luthier and enjoy its sound. You wouldn't ever buy a car solely on the advertising, without taking it for a test drive and bringing it to a trusted mechanic.

    Forget Sam Ash or any store that sells trumpets alongside electric guitars. Find a luthier who specializes in basses.
  11. kderick


    Apr 29, 2004
    Orlando, FL
    If someone anywhere in the Central Florida area has a bass for sale, or knows a good luthier that sells them, pm me or post a thread which could help. I would be greatly apprecative of any help I could get. Thank you everyone who has already posted as well. Being wet behind the ears, it is great to get advice from people who know good information.
  12. I play blue grass too. I agree with JJBluegrasser. I generally think that blue grass is pretty straight-forward on the bass. I am sure that my technique is not particularly good, but on the other hand, blue grass is a blast to play and is a great way to get out and play with other musicians and it can get complicated when one has to sing and play the bass at the same time. By the way, I was one of those guys who the band said: Hey, we don't need a drummer, how about playing bass.
  13. tplyons


    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I have an Engelhardt EM-1 and the feel is nothing compared to my 50's C-1. Guess it's just all the sweat built up over the years...

    Anyway, I have small hands and can't comfortably get my hands around the neck of a Christopher, so Kays and Engelhardt's for me. My EM-1 was playable out of the box, but with new strings and a setup it'll be amazing. Still need to get my fingerboard levelled and my adjustable bridge fitted and I'm set. Maybe a neck sanding too.

    A properly set up Engelhardt will cost you only a little bit less than a Christopher, but will play much better without spending the extra dough. Either will be an excellent choice for a beginner or amateur player.

    My recommendation, but the Engelhardt and spend the difference between that and the Christopher at a compitent luthier.
  14. songdog


    Oct 9, 2003
    I had my 55 year old kay worked on by a violin luthier, and she found it necessary to contact englehart to help with the fix. She reported that they were generous with information on my kay and she was able to do some repairs that were complex with their help. songodog btw my bass has never sounded so great. Thanks englehart
  15. Don't know how much I can add that others haven't covered, but I kind of thought the Englehardt fans were ahead, so I hoped to even the odds.

    There are a lot of Kays in BG in this area, and a few E's, but I play a Chris DB303T with Velvet Compass 360's. Big, warm huggable sound. Just played a concert a couple of weeks ago, Mic'd, no pickup yet, and was mobbed by other players.

    As far as the neck, with proper setup, it is JUST right. Not clubby like the Strunal, and with the low tension Velvets - very fast. Have not played a Chris plywood however.
  16. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Everybody go back and read what McBass typed. Then go do that.

    Strunal and Shen and Christopher and any number of other companies are doing a great job of turning out quality, consistent entry level basses. But if that's what you go in looking for, you stand every chance of missing that "we think it's probably German or maybe Czech and 60 - 100 years old".

    If you walk in and say" I got $3K (or whatever)" and play EVERYTHING in the shop that's in that price range (and some that are above that price range) and make your choice based on what sounds most like the bass you hear in your head, not on who made it. If you're not playing at the place where you trust your technique to get the best possible sound out of the bass, take your teacher. If you aren't studying with anyone yet (and why not?), take a bass player whose sound you like, get the guys at the shop to take turns playing the basses for you. It ain't like Guitar Center, all of these guys love basses, love the fact that there's more people interested in basses and love the fact that you are in their shop seriously looking to buy an instrument. One that they will more than likely continue to see throughout your stewardship of it - for repairs, for tweaking, for upgrading and eventually for a potential resale when you decide to get another instrument.
  17. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I won't dis Englehardts, as I owned an ES9 as my first bass and was mostly happy with it. They can be set up to play well. The idea of them being playable out of the box is quite relative IMO. I thought the same at one point, but after having the work done, the difference was night and day.

    I am chiming in only to say the small hand = need for thin neck thing is total hooey. IME, it can actually cause more hand strain problems, as Ed mentioned.

    I didn't notice it much when I owned the Swingmaster, maybe because I have studied much harder with my current teacher, but I have had issues with discomfort and strain when playing a Kay/Engelhardt. I run across them all the time. If I don't carry my bass along with me to a BG or folk gathering, chances are, I'll end up on a Kay before the day's end.

    I don't think the discomfort comes from the depth of the neck but the thinner nut and narrow fingerboard. You have to draw your hand tighter to get the right part of the finger pad on the string and keep tighter arches to properly finger the strings. I did 20 minutes on a Kay a couple of weeks ago and my left hand was killing me.

    I'd say find a bass that sounds good, is put together well and fits your budget. Any adult in the 10-90 percentile in size should be able to play a 3/4 bass. Once it becomes yours, the feel if it will come in time.

    There are plenty of basses out there that will match up with Engelhardt as far as price. Christopher and Strunal have been mentioned. I have played both and think either in the hands of a competent luthier can be made very functional. I would throw my Shen in the mix as being a great option in the budget friendly category.

    The only other comment I would make about the Kay/Engelhardt neck is that they are unique. If you get it stuck in your head that a Kay neck is the way a bass needs to be made in order for you to play it, you are pretty much stuck with a Kangelhardty for the rest of your life. If you ever have the desire and budget to move into a mastercrafted carved instrument, it is going to feel much more like a Shen or Christopher than a Kay.